Boston Public Transit Does It Right: Opens Scheduling Data

from the nice-move dept

We were just talking about how NY's public transit authority, the MTA was following in the footsteps of other short-sighted transit groups, by claiming ownership of scheduling data, and trying to squeeze license fees for anyone who uses it. Instead, if they were smart, they'd recognize that their money is made by making it easier and more convenient for people to take public transportation. It appears there are at least a few public transit authorities that recognize this. Rosedale points out that up in Boston, the MBTA is actually taking an open approach to its data. They're opening up all of the data and allowing developers to create their own apps:
"Our priority is to consistently improve customer service for the riders who rely on the T and RTAs everyday to get to their job or their doctor's appointment on time," said Transportation Secretary Aloisi. "With the help of thoughtful technical developers, making this data public will spawn many possible applications to help transit users use their cell phones or laptops to find and use the right bus or train in the right place at the right time for them."
Nice to see at least a few out there who have figured this out.

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  1. icon
    p0ps (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 3:06am

    Public Data

    Open data a difficult concept for some organizations to grasp. You'd think, tho, public agencies would be among the first to come to it. It's encouraging to hear of one who seems to be remembering the public part of their mandate. Props to Boston's MBTA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    David (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 3:21am


    I find it disturbing just how awesome I found that to be. It should, surely, be common-practice to make it easier to use public transport? Still: kudos to the MBTA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2009 @ 4:01am

    Now I want to move to Boston... wait, that's not true. I'll never live in the US!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    NullOp, 20 Aug 2009 @ 5:24am


    Someone making it easier to use public transportation? Unheard of!

    "Good on 'em", I say!

    I wish someone would make CCT easier to deal with. Looking at bus schedules you'd think they hired the seriously impared to made up the info regarding scheduling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    AW, 20 Aug 2009 @ 6:33am

    So being from Boston and living in Boston during 9/11 I have to say that this does pose some security risks. While opening up real time travel would have been absolutely awesome when I went to school, as the T(what we call the MBTA) is the only real transportation aside from good ol' shoe leather, which I also highly recommend in Boston, especially in the wee hours of the morning, when the city is quiet and the Sun is just coming up over the bay. I digress though, I am sure my love for my city is apparent. Allowing for certain people to know exactly when trains enter and exit areas would allow for precision attacks. So cool idea overall, but it needs to be weighed against security. One attack in the right place, I do have a specific place though I decline to share, and the city would be shut down for months or longer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    PRMan, 20 Aug 2009 @ 6:47am

    Now if you can just avoid the gangfights in your train...

    Scheduling times are great. Good for them. Now they just need to do what NYC did a few years ago and clean up the crime on there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2009 @ 7:07am

    Didn't work in London

    The problem didn't arise in London because the terrorists in question were actually ON the buses and trains.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    John, 20 Aug 2009 @ 7:39am

    MBTA needs to release real-time info

    Now they need to just start to release the real-time information. MBTA has had GPS on all of the buses for several months. I'd be much more likely to ride if I could have some idea of when different buses would arrive. I can only imagine the cool mashups that people could create from this data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Jrosen (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 7:45am


    Oh give me a break. I lived in the Boston area (Somerville to be exact) during 9/11. Outside of some scares and overreactions nothing happened in Boston that I can remember.

    To go with the rather cliche saying now... To not do things (especially useful ones like, help commuters and tourists get where they need to go) because of the 'threat' of terrorism, then the terrorists have already won. We are FAR from being the only country that has to deal with that threat, and hardly even in the top five of ones that deal with the reality on a regular basis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Rosedale (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 9:59am

    Re: MBTA needs to release real-time info

    Yes, Yes, This is exactly what I want. Real time tracking so I don't have to stand and wait at a bus stop and such.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Rosedale (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 10:02am

    To be fair

    To be fair this took a long time in coming and a lot of complaints. I personally am an every day rider. To work and back from work. So by now I've figured out most things on my own. Still I find myself in uncharted waters from time to time and this info is invaluable. I know when I was in NYC for vacation my iPhone was used to ride public transit. Without it I would have used their subway a lot less.

    From what I can tell there are a lot of great computer geeks in the area planning on some great projects with this new data. Stay tuned and we'll see what happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Emily, 29 Aug 2009 @ 9:06am

    NYC way easier to use than Boston

    I lived in NYC for 5 years and have now lived in Boston for 3. Releasing scheduling data in Boston is way more important in releasing it NYC simply because Boston is so user-unfriendly to begin with. As a resident who regularly uses the subway, there is very little planning needed to travel around NYC since the subways are so frequent and the lines are so numerous. In Boston however, it seems that a large portion of transit users live on bus lines that require a certain amount of planning and coordination to use. Where I live now in Brighton, only a die-hard transit supporter or low-income resident would put up with hassle of linking up buses that run every half hour or hour just to travel over to Cambridge (a ten minute drive).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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